The Playful, Sinister Graphic Design of a Surrealist Art Game Luminary

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It would be a stretch to say that the work of Osamu Sato has made a significant mark on the video games industry. A digital artist, photographer, composer and champion of what can only be described as psychedelia, Sato’s wide creative output is noteworthy for being largely absurdist – and frequently unsettling – whilst exploring themes and imagery that few would dare take a risk on in any kind of entertainment medium, let alone video games. The likes of Eastern Mind: The Lost Souls of Tong-Nou (1994) and PS1 cult favourite LSD: Dream Emulator (1998) are far from material intended for mainstream or commercial acceptance – Vice’s Motherboard even went as far as aptly naming them as some of the “most terrifying” games ever made.

In spite of their often oppressive artistic overtones and forward-thinking gameplay concepts that display bold scope whilst falling short on execution, Sato’s forays into the world of games design have asserted themselves as some of the most evergreen pieces amongst his diverse portfolio, fostering a dedicated community of fans simply fascinated by the enigmatic nature of his creations. LSD in particular, a game that serves of something of an adaptation of the haunting dreams of one of Sato’s employees, can still be seen to provide a cause for curiosity almost two decades after its release, with many of its mysteries still unsolved and under investigation from the few who have bypassed its immediate mechanical inaccessibility.

Shared with us by Don Miller (who has produced several projects of his own featuring technological audiovisual exploration under the alias NO CARRIER that is not unlike that seen in Sato’s endeavours, many of which utilise the potential of ageing computer and video game hardware in unique ways) is a book published 1993, The Art of Computer Designing: A Black and White Approach. The book serves as both a compendium of Sato’s work, as well as an artistic guide, showcasing the potential of then emerging computer hardware in producing sophisticated graphic imagery using simple geometric forms.

The jaunty, abstract nature and captivating symmetry of Sato’s artwork displayed in the book offers a unique insight not only into the artistic capabilities of the computers of the era, but a degree of creativity on Sato’s part in making use of basic shapes to create recognisable forms that carry a distinct sharpness evident in many of his later productions, video games included.

The book in its entirety is available to read and download from archive.org, a non-profit online library that seeks to preserve media of various forms. An accompanying floppy disk can also be downloaded, featuring pictographs and illustrations featured in the book for use in Adobe Illustrator.

Featured below is a selection of pages from the book, including some samples from Sato’s debut piece, a typographic collection called ‘Alphabetic Orgasm’. For a long time, Sato was considered something of an elusive figure, with little information existing online about him or his work – today, you can follow him on Twitter and Instagram, or visit his website to view his art, photography and music in more detail.

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About Oliver Jameson

A UK-based appreciator of video game culture with journalistic ambitions. Creator of Minus World.
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